After four tumultuous and occasionally harrowing years, the United States (and the world) could take a small sigh of relief as the transition of power from President Trump to President Biden occurred without issue. The transition symbolised a course correction for the country, rejecting the nationalist, xenophobic – and dare I say fascist – rhetoric that came to define Trump’s presidency to instead embrace hope, inclusivity and a belief that the world is better with an America united.
Biden’s inauguration was an uncharacteristically small affair, scaled down due to Covid-19 and security concerns lingering from the insurrection two weeks prior. However, it delivered everything it needed to. It demonstrated leadership that promised to be more considered, more effective, and less partisan than before. His Vice President, Kamala Harris is the first woman, the first Black American, and the first South Asian American to be elected Vice President. She has a long career smashing glass ceilings and now further shines as a beacon of inspiration for young women and non-white people. And, above all else, it proudly declared that democracy can stand up against brutes who would try to undermine it.
If unity and an optimistic hope for the future were the themes of the inauguration, then Amanda Gorman was the perfect embodiment of them. Performing ‘The Hill We Climb’ to a global audience, the 22-year-old became the youngest ever poet to perform at a presidential inauguration – and won the hearts of everyone who watched.
The five-minute poem called for unity and togetherness, and painted a picture of a better world, while not shying away from the ugliness we are coming from.
"When day comes, we ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade?" her poem begins, before addressing the attempted coup incited by the outgoing president, “We've seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy,"
"And this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated."
Speaking to The Washington Post, Gorman said "My hope is that my poem will represent a moment of unity for our country," and that "with my words, I’ll be able to speak to a new chapter and era for our nation."
Truly demonstrating the power of youth voice, Gorman was both poignant and considered in her words (both refreshing characteristics in the US political sphere) and I feel delivered exactly the message the world needs right now. With extremism on the rise, a pandemic surging out of control, and sacred institutions reeling from an unprecedented attack, Amanda puts the onus on all of us to protect the things we cherish, and extend a hand to those we disagree with. We are all in this together, and helping each other be the best they can will only be of benefit to us all.
Gorman, who was appointed as the first US National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017, has already declared she intends to run for president in 2036.